The BBC is reportedly planning to axe modern rock digital radio station 6 Music as part of the corporation's strategic review of digital services.
The Times reports on its front page that BBC director-general Mark Thompson will close BBC 6 Music and the Asian Network, a combination of speech and music radio that bills itself the "sound of Asian Britain."
The decision is less about saving money for the publicly funded broadcaster - the 6 Music annual budget is around £6 million ($9 million) from the BBC's £3.6 billion ($5.5 billion) license fee income - and more about reducing the size of the BBC, which impacts on commercial operators. It will also send a message to a new U.K. government in the spring, likely a Conservative administration based on the polling, that the BBC is not abusing its position at the expense of the commercial sector.
Thompson is also said to be planning to close half of its Web sites and cut spending on U.S. imports for TV, with the savings diverted into higher quality TV shows for BBC Two.
According to the Times, the strategic review report is being considered by the BBC Trust and will be made public next month.
A BBC spokesperson said today: "Work on the BBC's strategy review is ongoing and we are not commenting on today's story."
Whatever the future development of alternative commercial services, the closure of 6 Music would be an immediate blow on two fronts. The music industry would lose an outlet for breaking new artists and getting exposure for second tier acts, and it would also remove one of the few DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting) radio stations, which were supposed to encourage take-up of DAB sets so that digital switchover can take place by 2015. BBC 6 Music is also available via the Internet and digital TV.
A BBC Trust review last month found that 6 Music was distinctive and well-liked by its audience but needed to extend its audience reach among "enthusiasts of alternative popular music."
That prompted some possibly premature celebrations from those campaigning to 'save' a station - a Facebook campaign to keep the network has 58,055 members - which had never been been identified publicly as under threat by the BBC. But the strategic review by Thompson was always going to be crucial to the network's future.
BBC 6 Music, which launched in 2002, has 695,000 listeners as measured by audience reach according to RAJAR. Its current playlist includes Gorillaz, Vampire Weekend and Mumford & Sons, and part of its remit is to draw on the BBC music archives such as sessions recorded for John Peel.
The Times is owned by News Corp subsidiary News International, whose chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch is known as a critic of the BBC's right to license fee funding.